Friday, October 16, 2009

Theory of Relativity

Yesterday's shocking headline: The Am Chord Unmasked! Actually C in Disguise.

But that was in a publication with a major bias. In another publication, one with a minor bias, the headline was this: C is for Counterfeit! It Was Am All Along.

The thing is, when the key of C major freely uses chords from the relative minor key of A minor, and when A minor uses chords from C major just as freely, you're bound to run into songs where the line between those two keys is completely blurred. Is the song really in A minor or C major? Different musicians may have different answers to that question.

(Of course, we're just using C major and A minor as examples. Any pair of relative keys can present the same conundrum.)

Luckily Einstein helps us out with his Theory of Musical Relativity. The theory says that you can analyze the song as if it's in the minor key or as if it's in the major key, and you'll get an equivalent and logically consistent understanding of the song either way.

C major and A minor share the same six basic chords:
Am, C, Dm, Em, F, and G
But in the key of A minor, we call these chords, respectively:
[one]m, [three]♭, [four]m, [five]m, [six]♭, and [seven]♭
In the key of C major, those same chords are:
[six]m, [one], [two]m, [three]m, [four], and [five]

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